Chicken coop: heated water

It’s getting cold, starting to drop below freezing at night, so it’s time to put out the waterer heaters. Each of the coops now has a metal water dispenser that sits on a heated base. The base only comes on when the temperature drops below freezing, to warm up the water a little, just enough to prevent it from freezing:

The coops themselves aren’t heated or insulated. It may seem counterintuitive, but providing heat is actually bad for the chickens — since a sudden power loss could result in them freezing to death. If they gradually get used to colder temperatures, they build up fat and fluff to keep themselves warm. They also snuggle together while roosting.

The main requirements for winter are to prevent the water from freezing (and thus preventing them from drinking it), avoiding cold drafts while ensuring ventilation, and collecting eggs more often so they don’t freeze (and crack).

Chickens in the veggie garden

Now that we’re done with the veggies for the year, it’s time to let the chickens in to clean up the beds. In no time at all they’ll eat all the leftover vegetation, and till the beds.

Here’s a YouTube video:

I cut a hole in the fence from the new run:

Enabling the new chickens to enter the veggie garden:

And re-opened the hole from the old run, for the old girls:

The new chickens didn’t take long to start investigating the garden beds:

For the most part, the two flocks are staying on opposite sides of the garden, though there have been some interactions:

Camilla the escape artist

The previously mentioned green eggs turned out to be being laid by Camilla, the Easter Egger. As mentioned, she laid her first few eggs in a shelter in the run, that I had added to give them shade. 

To encourage her to lay in the correct place (the nesting boxes inside), I removed those shady spots. But she didn’t accept that; instead she flew onto the roof of the coop (about 7’ up):

And instead laid in a spare compost bin just outside the run:

Sigh. I’ve had to let her back into the run several times, as the front of the roof is too high to which to fly. So I’m working on covering the run, so she won’t be able to get out.

In good news, we got a light brown egg from another chicken today… and it was correctly in the nesting box. I’m not sure who laid this egg, but at least she figured out the right place!

Green eggs and him

This morning I found a couple of small green eggs in a shelter in the new chicken run. Likely either from Martha, the Blue Ameraucana, or Camilla, the Easter Egger. Our first eggs from the new chicks!

Of course, after all that effort building nice nesting boxes for the girls, the first eggs are outside. Hopefully they’ll figure out the correct place to lay.

In other chicken news, our new Buff Brahma chicken, Babe, has started to crow. So it looks like she is a he. We should have guessed when he developed the beautiful plumage, but we knew that he’ll be a big chicken, so didn’t think much of it.

We didn’t want a rooster, but it turns out we have one. He’s so pretty, we’ll probably keep him, unless he becomes a problem. The name still works — like Babe Ruth, ya know.

Chicken poop tray & grazing frame

Today I crossed another couple of little chicken projects off my list.

Firstly, I built a poop tray — a nested tray to collect the poop chickens release overnight while roosting, to make it easier to keep the coop clean.

Here is the outer tray, which features an opening at the back (towards us) and a welded wire screen to keep the chickens out:

And the inner tray, with a small opening at one end to enable scooping out the waste:

They fit together like this within the coop, accessed via the poop door:

Both could be removed if I want to sweep out the entire coop. But typically just the inner tray will be pulled out to clean out, without exposing the whole doorway:

Here’s what it looks like inside:

Next up, I built a grazing frame — a structure with a hardware cloth screen on top. We can plant grass or other fodder inside the frame, which will grow up through the wire, so the chickens can eat the tops without destroying the entire plant. (Given an opportunity, chickens will turn any amount of foliage to barren dirt in time, by scratching and pecking plants into oblivion.)

The chickies are intrigued:

Chicken names

All of our new chickens are different breeds or colors, so we can tell them apart (mostly; see below). Thus, we can, and have, given each of them names.

Here are pictures of each, with their name and breed. Click the link on the breed to learn more about each. Most will lay brown eggs, but I’ve noted exceptions. They aren’t fully grown, and haven’t started laying yet, but they’re not too far off.

I’ve mentioned Merida before; named so because she is the bravest chicken. She is a White Plymouth Rock:

Another super-friendly one that I’ve named previously is Domino. She is a Dominique (yes, several of the names are highly imaginative):

This is Babe, a Buff Brahma — she’ll be a big girl:

This is Kiwi, a Speckled Sussex, named because she looked kinda like a kiwi bird when she was a chick, though less so now that her tail feathers are developing:

This is Tilly, a Double Laced Barnevelder:

Go on patrol with Buffy, a Buff Orpington:

Mo was named for her upright head feathers; she’s a Cream Legbar, and will have light blue eggs:

Lola is a Blue Cochin, with impressively fluffy feet, and will be very large. She has the nickname “Butthurt”, as she had a prolapsed vent as a baby chick:

Goldie is a Golden Laced Wyandotte, who also had a health issue as a chick, this time a “wry neck”, but fully recovered after treatment:

Say hi to Silver, a Silver Laced Wyandotte:

Meet Blondie. She is one of our three Ameraucanas, and will lay light blue eggs in due course:

Flo is another Ameraucana, also with blue eggs:

Martha is a Blue Ameraucana:

This is Camilla, an Easter Egger, who may lay blue or green eggs:

These two are trickier; one is Willow, and the other is Dot. One is an Australorp, and the other is a Black Jersey Giant. But it’s really hard to tell them apart at present; they used to be more different, and will be later, but right now they look pretty much identical to us:

Finally, here are the old girls. They are Rhode Island Reds (which occasionally lay brown eggs, but have slowed way down), and Brown Leghorns (which lay white eggs). But they don’t have names, since we can’t tell them apart:

Chickens meet & greet

Our older chickens (far side) and newer chickens (this side) start getting to know each other through the fence.

In due course, we want the two flocks to merge, but that may take a while, with much negotiation about the new pecking order, once we let them interact without a barrier. In the meantime, this is a beginning.

Chicken run: now open!

This morning I finished the new chicken run fencing, and installed the automatic pop door opener (with a little help from Domino), enabling the chickens to access the run:

The opener is mounted to a small door, so it can be accessed from inside the coop:

Here’s the pop door open for the first time, much to the chickies surprise:

Outside the coop, the opener is behind a window, so the light sensor can work:

Here’s inside:

And a close-up:

Chickies peeking out of the pop door:

Unsurprisingly, our bravest new chicken, imaginatively named Merida after the Pixar movie character, was the first to leave the coop to the newly fenced chicken run (YouTube video):

Followed by Domino:

And a few others:

But some weren’t yet brave enough:

Good thing it was a bit cloudy this morning; once the sun came out, they were all much more reluctant to leave the coop.